Selective Dissent: Thy Name is Intolerance

Decades back as a devout biology student, this author had come across the term “symbiosis” basically defined as the association of two or more different organisms living in close physical and physiological relationship in the nature mutually beneficial to each other. The “ecosystem” was another term which represented a for larger community of variety organisms in an area with physical traits and components that suit best for their common comfortable living, nourishment and energy flows. In post-independent India, somewhat similar socio-political symbiotic relationship developed among the then ruling political class, mediapersons and intellectuals for mutual benefit, recognition and interests. Together they formed an elite class and culture with unassuming power, resources and reach in the country in a timespan. The common ecosystem thus formed has refused to accept or recognize any individual or group that do not endorse their ideology or conform to their programmes and policies. This ecosystem comprising of certain elite political class, section of media and narcissist intellectuals aggressively guard their domain and have no hesitation even in compromising the national interests if it suits them that way.

So it is not surprising that as soon as Narendra Modi became Prime Minister of India in the NDA Government in May 2014, members of the ecosystem became restless and floated the narrative of growing intolerance and suppression of freedom of speech and expression based on some stray events of violence where victims were either from Muslim or dalit communities. The Jinn of intolerance was set loose in just few months after his coming in power and it continued to haunt India through 2015, it was corked back with great efforts but not before taking a heavy toll in terms of looming controversies, disparage and communal disharmony with adverse publicity of the country worldwide. The ecosystem again tried to raise similar controversies around the time of last Parliamentary elections in April-May 2019 but without much headway or success and the Indian masses restored back Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power at Centre with even larger mandate than in 2014 against umpteen odds.

Apparently currently the ecosystem does not have any significant issue or  cause at hand to instigate a fresh stir, so once again the good old trick of "rising intolerance" has been employed by the fertile brains of the triad of politicians in main opposition, particular section of the mediapersons and self-proclaimed intellectuals of the stated civic society. At least this is what a few controversial developments in the recent past appear to suggest. The Jinn of intolerance is eager to take its toll with the same old narratives of religious intolerance and suppression of the freedom of speech and expression as is evident from two successive open letters personally addressed to Prime Minister Modi by the celebrities boasting as seculars and liberals in the society. Fresh salvos may perhaps be an attempt to helping their political patrons facing the crisis of survival as also earning some attention for self. Of course, such controversies always come handy to the print and electronic media (controversy invariably sells), particularly the latter one, for it means earning more TRP (Television Rating Point).

Recent Controversy on Intolerance

On 23rd July 2019, 49-celebrities including filmmakers and artists, writers and historians and civic society members wrote an open letter by name to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi raising serious concerns over intolerance in India, rising cases of mob lynching and the need to allow dissent for the sake of the country’s democracy. Some of the prominent personalities in the list included Bollywood celebrities Shyam Benegal, Mani Ratnam, Soumitro Chatterjee, Binayak Sen, Aparna Sen, Shubha Mudgal, Anurag Kashyap, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Ravathy and Konkona Sen, political psychologist Ashis Nandy and historian Ramachandra Guha. Citing some selective data from certain sources for a target period, they alleged that about 90% of violent incidents and attacks were reported after May 2014, when Modi Government assumed power at the national level, and the majority attacks were against the Muslims and dalits in India.

They regretted that the slogan “Jai Shree Ram” has become a provocative ‘war-cry’ leading to a serious law and order problem, and many lynchings take place in its name. It is shocking to see so much violence perpetrated in the name of religion; after all people are not living in the Middle Age! They suggested that as the highest executive of this country, Mr Narendra Modi must put a stop to the name of Ram being defiled in this manner. Questioning action taken against perpetrators, they said that he (Prime Minister) had criticized such lynchings in the Parliament, but it was not enough. Such offence should be declared non-bailable and exemplary punishment should be meted out swiftly and surely against the culprits stopping the lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities immediately. Strongly defending some people for the action taken against them under sedition laws in the recent past, these celebrities lamented that people should not be branded ‘anti-national’ or ‘urban naxal’ and incarcerated because of dissent against the Government. Article 19 of the Constitution of India protects freedom of speech and expression of which dissent is an integral part.

They also said that they were peace loving and proud Indians, who are deeply concerned about a number of tragic events that have been occurring in recent times in India. They added that criticizing the ruling party did not imply criticizing the nation because no ruling party in power is synonymous with the country. It is only one of the political parties of that country; hence anti-government stands cannot be equated with anti-national sentiments. An open environment where dissent is not crushed only makes for a stronger nation. While concluding, they hoped that their suggestions will be taken in the spirit as Indians genuinely concerned with, and anxious about, the fate of the nation.

The letter generated considerable controversy about the allegations made by the celebrities in their open letter in the press, electronic and social media. While nobody favoured or defended violence based on religion, caste or section of society, but an overwhelming majority opined that a selective approach in condemnation of violence is not good for the democracy and secularism in the country. The strongest reaction and rebuttal came only after two days from another group of sixty-two prominent citizens and celebrities including the names like the Chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification and poet Prasoon Joshi, classical dancer Sonal Mansingh, filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, director Madhur Bhandarkar, instrumentalist Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and actors Kangana Ranaut, Parno Mitra and Kanchana Moitra against the allegations of lynching and religion-based hate crimes earlier made by Shyam Benegal Inc.

The group of 62-prominent citizens said that the open letter of forty nine self- styled guardians and conscience keepers of the nation and of democratic values have expressed selective outrage and false narratives demonstrating a clear political bias and motive. They stated that the letter was an attempt to foist a false narrative with the intention of denigrating the democratic ethos and norms of our collective functioning as a nation and people. Lynching is a social malady which has to be dealt up front; Prime Minister has spoken out against it repeatedly and respective state governments are empowered to take action. They also stated that the letter was aimed at tarnishing India’s international standing and negatively portray Prime Minister Modi’s untiring efforts. The group simultaneously referred to many instances of political and religious violence where the signatories of the letter strangely kept silent.

The letter raised twelve specific instances when 49-celebrities retained conspicuous silence while showing deep concern about the growing trend of lynching in India. These instances included the political violence in West Bengal, Kashmiri Pandits killed and driven out of Kashmir, migration of harassed Hindus from Kairana, the arrest of people chanting "Jai Shri Ram" in presence of Bengal CM, orgy of unprecedented violence in recent Panchayat elections in Bengal, the vandalisation of temples in many places (identified) including West Bengal and Chandni Chowk in Delhi, students fired upon in Daribhit High School, Islampur for demanding education in Geography and Computer Applications in place of being forced to learn Urdu, instances of farmers killed by cattle smuglers and jawans in the border areas by the smuggling syndicates of the particular community. They also mentioned the plight of Muslim women victimized under social evil “triple talaq” and asked why these personalities don't speak on the need of equality and women empowerment. Poet Binayak Bandopadhyay who is also a signatory on the letter later categorically mentioned in media that the 49-celebrities do not think that an alternative discourse also exists in this country.

They said that the signatories of the open letter had kept silent when tribals and marginalized became the victims of naxal terror, when separatists issued dictates to burn schools in Kashmir, when the demand for dismembering India was made, when India was threatened to break in parts by ‘Tukde – Tukde Gang’ in JNU, and they remained silent when slogans chanted by the terrorists and terror groups were echoed in some leading university campuses in the country. They also alleged that signatories of open letter think that the freedom, unity and integrity of India can be bartered away in the name of freedom of speech and expression. Some of these signatories had even record of acting as mouthpieces and ideologues for the insurgents, separatists and terrorists in the past. Therefore, their concern smacked of dishonesty and opportunism. Contrary to the allegations made by the signatories of the open letter, Modi regime has allowed maximum liberty to differ and criticize and even abuse the government and dispensation in power.

Speaking on the criticism of religious spirit, they charged that this group (49-celebrities) has repeatedly expressed disdain for the faith of the majority community in India. They have repeatedly heaped derision on those who believed in Lord Ram and who derive strength and solace by chanting his sacred name. The said open letter of 49-celebrities was a disguised attempt to pour disdain in the subalterns of whom faith and worship are defining dimension. The selective outrage and amnesia of this particular group suggests that they are working on to an agenda and are only playing into hands of those forces that are out to balkanize India and to destabilize her. They said that the Constitution of India certainly gives right to dissent but not right to try and break India apart. To disguise the propensity for subversion by the name of dissent is a dangerous trait.

Post-Letter-War Developments

When the dine and dust of the controversy and debate on account of the letter-war of the two groups of celebrities and distinguished personalities was about to settled down, the issue was flared up again when an advocate Sudhir Kumar Ojha moved a protest petition against Shyam Benegal Inc in Mujaffar Nagar, Bihar and a FIR was lodged in early October 2019 following an order of the Chief Judicial Magistrate under various sections of the Indian Penal Code including a sedition case. While naming the alleged celebrities as accused, the thrust of petition was that they had tarnished the image of the country supporting secessionist tendencies while simultaneously undermined the impressive performance of the Indian Prime Minister. Ojha said in a press statement that he was not against writing a letter but the way it was published in media, it clearly showed a deliberate attempt to tarnish the image of the prime minister and country.

Sharply reacting to this development, a “cultural community” (artists and academicians) comprising of 185 personalities shot another open letter endorsing the earlier letter of 49-celebrities just four days after the lodging of FIR against them. They alleged that the FIR has been lodged against forty-nine of their colleagues in the cultural community simply because they performed their duty as respected members of the civil society. They wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister, expressing concern about mob lynching in our country. Can this be called an act of sedition? It is simply a case of harassment and ploy to silence citizens’ voices by misusing the courts. Condemning the registration of case, they said that they endorsed every word of the letter earlier written to the prime minister and that more of them would speak every day against mob lynching and silencing of people’s voices. The said cultural community invited others to join their campaign. Among the prominent people among them are historian Romila Thapar, actor Naseeruddin Shah, writer K. Satchidanandan, Arundhati Roy and Saba Dewan.

While these developments were taking place, the Muzaffar Nagar Police put down the curtain on the whole controversy recommending closure of the case as prima facie they did no find substance in the FIR. The Police said that a case of sedition and breach of peace was registered against 49-celebrities at a police station on the direction of a local court, where Ojha had filed a petition. The Senior Superintendent of Police concerned clarified that an order for the closure of case was issued by him because the preliminary investigation revealed that allegations were leveled against the accused out of mischief and lacked substance. The police also opined that the complainant apparently did this to garner publicity for himself.

Rafale Shastra Puja Invites Controversy

On the auspicious occasion of Vijayadashami on 8 October 2019, French Rafale manufacturing and supplier company handed over the first Rafale fighter jet to Indian Air Force under the deal of 36 such aircrafts finalized in September 2016. The occasion was marked with Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh performing a Shastra Puja on the new Rafale aircraft during the handover ceremony in France. The puja (worship) was carried out in a traditional way inscribing “AUM” on the jet along with coconut, sweets, flowers and lemons with prescribed rituals. The chief opposition party, Congress, spared no time in slamming the Defence Minister with allegation that the Shastra Puja was an attempt to link it with religion. Mallikarjun Khadge, a veteran Congress leader and some other colleagues mocked and equated the Shastra Puja with an unwarranted tamasha (drama). They said it was unprecedented and there was no need of carrying out such rituals in a foreign country.

Earlier, the then Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had severely criticized the Rafale deal and made it an election plank during the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 claiming large scale corruption by the prime minister himself. A day after the Congress criticized the Shastra Puja, another heavyweight opposition leader Sharad Pawar mocked it drawing a parallel between the Minister with those buying new trucks. Salman Khurshid, a Muslim Congress leader, questioned the Puja with only one religion and said why not the blessings of all religion was sought. While the Congress was busy in slamming the Defence Minister for Shastra Puja, the records from the archives of the Press Information Bureau (PIB) revealed that the said party itself had welcomed the first Sea-Harrier aircraft for the Indian Navy with a similar 'Puja' in 1983 at the British Aerospace Electronic Systems (BAE)'s Dunsfold Airbase, England.

Controversies Decoded in Simple Terms

From the aforesaid episodes, the following inferences could straightaway be derived:

  1. The reaction of the said cultural community comprising of 185 self-proclaimed respected and conscientious personalities of eminence was totally uncalled for and unwarranted. Their threat to speak every day against mob lynching and silencing of people’s voices, and inviting others to join their chorus and campaign only vindicates their bias and hate against the present ruling dispensation and head of the government. If they have right to speech and expression, so should be the case with every other Indian citizen. So if these people have blistering attack on the faith and worship of the majority people or criticize the prime minister of India as if he is personally responsible and answerable to every malady in the country, they should also have forbearance and fortitude to patiently hear or face the parallel counterview or counteraction too.
  2. It is now clear that advocate Ojha had independently moved court against the one sided narrative of lynching and dragging prime minister’s name by 49-celebrities whether out of genuine concern or to garner publicity as claimed by the police. As per the available information, he was neither supported by any interested group nor fielded by any political party. In such case, making hue and cry against the judiciary and ruling dispensation by a section of media and aforesaid cultural community against a FIR made no sense. Even a few days wait would have cleared the fog as has actually happened; instead, the interested media and a far bigger congregation of like-minded celebrities opted to make a common cause by opening another bigger front against the ruling dispensation. Apparently none of them deemed it necessary to consider points made in the counterview of the group of 62-prominent citizens.
  3. While leaders of the Congress spared no time to haul up Defence Minister and the ruling dispensation for the Rafale Shastra Puja, they did not consider it necessary to have little introspection to analyze the spirit behind it and their own past record of similar rituals. When people choose to criticize or appose a person or system giving an enemy-like treatment rather than deal with a spirit of healthy rivalry and competition, they often found themselves in an embarrassing state and pitted against the interests of own nation. The bias of the grand old party and some others with Rafale deal and the key political leader behind it compel them to criticize irrationally every development associated with it.

Facts of the Religion-based Violence

Raising the issues of religion based crimes selectively only against Muslims and Christians, the 49-celebrities had quoted private websites/sources like Factchecker.indatabase and Citizens Religious Hate Crime Watch. The authenticity of compiled data and motives of many NGOs and private agencies are often suspect and untrustworthy depending upon the factors such as their affiliation and funding. In an earlier piece “Selective Dissent is Bad for Democracy”, the author had analysed holistic and comprehensive PRS Data on religious violence in India since 2005. PRS Legislative Research, commonly referred to as PRS, is an Indian non-profit organization that was established in September 2005 as an independent research institute to make the Indian legislative process better informed, more transparent and participatory. Needless to mention that data reporting of this organization could be taken as fairly accurate and reliable compared to relatively biased and selective reporting of other private and foreign based and/or funded sources.

According to PRS Data, from 2005 to 2008 period, an average of 131 people died every year on account of religious/communal riots or group clashes including alleged mob lynching, and 2,200 were injured; from 2009 to 2013 period, an average of 112 people died and 2,177 injured; and from 2014 to 2017 (2018 data not available as of now), the corresponding average death and injury data are 97 and 2223, respectively. These figures do not support the claim of 49-celebrities unless the selective data used by them based on private sources are relied upon. The first two spells broadly represent UPA regime with Manmohan Singh as head of the government and the third one represents NDA regime under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The derogatory term Linchistan was coined by people after the much publicized death of Mohammad Akhlaq in September 2015 at Dadri, Ghaziabad near Delhi wherein a mob of villagers attacked the home of the aforesaid Muslim person on the suspicion of stealing and slaughtering a cow calf.

In the above referred article, the author had analyzed much publicized death cases of Mohammad Akhlaq, Janaid, Sawan Rathod, Mukesh Kumar, Khetram Bheel and Farooq during late 2015 to early 2018. While Mohammad Akhlaq was killed by on the suspicion of stealing and slaughtering a cow calf, police investigation revealed that the cause of death of Junaid was a dispute in seat sharing in the train rather than being a hate crime and Farooq was killed in a dispute with some realtor and Islamists. Of the remaining deaths of three Hindu boys at the hands of Muslim mobs, Sawan Rathod was killed on the suspicion of stealing car batteries while Mukesh Kumar and Khetram Bheel (both dalit/tribal) were lynched for their love affair (honour killing) with the girls of the other community. Interestingly, while Akhlaq killing was widely reported in national and international media for long highlighting growing intolerance in India during Modi regime, the opposition politicians, media and civil rights activists soon lost interest in remaining five cases after police investigations revealed that the Junaid case was not a hate crime and in the remaining four cases, victims were either Dalit or Muslim but accused in all cases were Muslims.

India has a long history of communal tension and riots for many centuries. According to data reported in Wikipedia, in pre-partitioned India during the period 1920 - 1940, numerous communal riots and mob violence were recorded with an average of 381 people dying per year and thousands injured. In October-November 1946 in a prelude to partition, about 5,000 Hindus were killed and over 50,000 of them uprooted during a series of massacres, rapes, abductions and forced conversions to Islam in Noakhali district of the undivided Bengal. Among other major riots, Gujarat riot of 2002 is considered notorious in which reportedly 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus died in three days and the cause of the riot was burning of a train by a violent Muslim mob in which 58 Hindu pilgrims were burnt alive. In 2012, there were 93 deaths in India from many incidents of communal violence; of these, 48 were Muslims, 44 Hindus and one police official. Also 2,067 people were injured, of which 1,010 were Hindus, 787 Muslims, 222 police officials and 48 others. During 2013, 107 people were killed in religious riots, of which 66 were Muslims and 41 were Hindus. Of the 1,697 people injured during the same period, 794 were Hindus, 703 Muslims and 200 policemen. There appears to be some discrepancy in the compiled data but the data broadly vindicate that the victims of alleged communal violence are not only Muslims and Christians but Hindus and other communities have also equally suffered.

Although ignominies are constantly dumped on India by a section of media and self-proclaimed liberals and intellectuals nationally and biased media and NGOs internationally for the alleged intolerance and violence, the recorded Wikipedia trend suggest that the India-wide average communal/mob violence fatality rate has been 0.01 person per 100,000 people per year during the recent years while the world's average annual death rate from such violence has been 7.9 per 100,000 people over the same period. Notwithstanding, the violence against humanity less or more, cannot be justified by any means and even single hate crime against any community and death or injury of even one person is unacceptable.

Selective Outrage and Amnesia Not Good for Nation

If we look back a few more decades, first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had launched first ship “Jal Usha” made in India on 14 March 1948 following a grand ceremony with the priests chanting Vedic Mantras, and Nehru offering flowers and breaking coconut amidst full glare and galore. Leaders like Khadge first need to have introspection within the Congress party before making such unsolicited remarks that simultaneously represents outrage and amnesia. Leaders like Salman Khurshid should try to find answer of his question from the late prime minister’s successors with whom party leadership rests, who might possibly explain why the blessings of all religions was not taken by Nehru at that occasion. This author’s answer to his question is simple: Such ritual at the beginning of any new launch or physical accomplishment is part of the ancient Indian culture, which it is believed wards off hurdles and bad omen, and it would be erroneous to link it with any religion or even treat it simply a religious act. India has welcomed people from the whole world including parsis and jews who were on the verge of extinction at one point of time due to persecution in the West, and perhaps it is the only country where people of all faiths live in peace and harmony, without fear or discrimination. There is a fine and delicate line between the culture and religion; and to that extent all religions are part of the Indian culture. People who do not understand or accept this position cause controversies and trouble for self and others; and most reported conflicts and riots in India are the outcome of this gap in understanding. YouTube

This could be explained by yet another illustration. In India, almost every cultural, academic and professional (courses, seminars, workshops etc.) event in public and private domain starts with the lighting of lamp and Saraswati Vandana (worship) chanting verses/mantras. Here lighting of the lamp is symbolic to spread of knowledge; Saraswati is the goddess of learning and the aforesaid ritual is part of the Indian culture. Since ages, people from different cultures and religions from various parts of the world came to India voluntarily for the business or cultural exchange, to escape persecution (parsis and jews) by others or with the evil intent of conquest, loot and plunder (Arabs and Turks) of the land, and many of them later settled here. Indian people have always been receptive and keen to accept and adopt noble traditions from all cultures and civilizations of the world; and people who came from elsewhere and settled in this country should also learn to respect, if not adopt, good traditions of the Indian culture.

Coming to the particular section of media and intellectuals & liberals (aka "49-celebrities" & “cultural community” under reference), their class, conduct and working is far more complex and intriguing. A close look at the background of such personalities would reveal that many of them are those who have constantly received recognition, patronage and rewards in their field, from the traditional ruling political party and elites in this country since independence and some of them are indeed well deserved in their domain. Many of them, in turn, perhaps feel it obligatory to return the favour to their political patrons by supporting them or periodically creating situations to help them in regaining their lost glory and fiefdom. Together such mediapersons and intellectuals are at times also referred to as “Lutyen’s elites” who have traditionally controlled vast power and resources in this country. Then there are others who may have no such interests or affiliations but have genuine concern for the virtues like democracy, secularism and freedom of speech and expression. Usually this latter category does not stress or endeavour much to find out full facts or real motive behind any move involving these issues and tend to go along with the flow or call given by the former category. In a nutshell, some of them take initiative with intent and purpose while many others simply register their presence by signing for the cause or petition.

Unfortunately, aforesaid is the stark reality in this country. Many award winning academicians, writers, artists, players and other professionals have political ideologies and leanings, earn name and fame under the patronage of their political patrons and contacts and return the favour back as and when required. They have their own influence on the contemporary society and seen as heroes through their role and contribution to the arts, literature, sports and other fields, exercising a vast influence over masses as common people largely take them as unbiased and accomplished torchbearers. A cursary look at the signatories of two open letters to the Indian prime minister reveals that some of these personalities are traditional Modi haters, sympathizers of separatists and terrorists in Kashmir, supporters of the infamous ‘Tukde-Tukde gang’ threatening to break India into pieces, defenders of urban naxals in the Supreme Court, supporters of the cause of convicted terrorists like Yakub Memon and Afzal Guru responsible for the killing of numerous innocent people, and so on. They are the ones who had expressed displeasure when Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014, were involved in intolerance campaign in the country in 2015 and just before parliamentary elections in April-May 2019 and participated in the current bout.

For illustration, people like Naseeruddin Shah, Romila Thaper, Nayantara Sehgal and Arundhati Roy have not spared any opportunity that could possibly embarrass the present ruling dispensation and specially Narendra Modi. Historian Romila Thaper was recently in news for defending urban naxals in the Apex Court and is signatory of the cultural community open letter to the prime minister on lynching and suppression of people’s freedom of expression. Author Arundhati Roy, part of “cultural community”, is rather infamous for supporting separatist in Kashmir and being a bitter critic of the Indian army. Naseeruddin Shah only some time back created ripples through two videos recorded by Indian and UK based NGOs giving impression as if the persecution of minorities (particularly Muslims) in India has reached to its zenith and the country is facing grave Constitutional crisis. Incidentally, Shah was one who actively pursued the mercy petition of Yakub Memon too, a convicted and condemned hardcore terrorist, to the President for a reprieve of death penalty, and later forcing the Supreme Court too for a mid-night hearing in a last ditch effort to save Memon from the gallows.

Actually there is nothing wrong in the media or intellectuals taking any particular cause or issue of individual or national interest for the welfare of the society or nation. But it is their duplicity and double standards that create problems by being selective in approach, which even casts doubts on the sincerity and integrity of these people. These intellectuals (alleged cultural community) perhaps have their own definition and interpretation of human rights and secularism that makes them so selective in picking up causes. For instance, even if a stray incident occurs causing inconvenience or harm to a member of certain minority community, these people swing into action as if a national crisis has occurred but keep an intriguing silence if grave injustice is caused, even en mass, to the majority community. They fight for the urban naxals citing them peace-loving people, plead and support the rights of stone-pelters and separatists in Kashmir justifying their cause and action but conveniently ignore the death of security personnel killed in ambush, lynching, stone-pelting or violent terrorist attacks, and the plight of their families. Many instances can be quoted in support of this averment from the recent past.

In the name of fundamental rights and freedom of expression, they are found endorsing or defending those who oppose or even insult national flag, national anthem and national song but choose to mock and criticize patriotic persons and nationalists citing their spirit as hyper-nationalism. In fact, the list of double standards and paradoxes is too long. Recently, when the case of urban naxals was being heard by the Supreme Court, while historian Romila Thaper Inc petitioned the Apex Court defending them as respected and innocent citizens, some leaders of the Congress stood as counsel in their defence citing them peace-loving eminent personalities. Ironically, a lot of information is available in public domain how only a few years back the same political party while in government had imprisoned some of them on the charges of sedition. But then this duplicity and selective approach is a characteristic feature of this ecosystem. The policy of appeasement of few minorities was adopted during the regime of the first Congress prime minister following independence and the last Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is on record of having said that the minorities, particularly Muslims, have first claim on the national resources. Some instances of duplicity and selective narratives are as follows:

  1. Only few days back, a young school teacher, his eight-month pregnant wife and their six year old child were hacked to death in their home in Murshidabad, West Bengal. This is only the latest incident in a series of murders of people in connection with political vendetta and hate violence. What to talk of assuring safety and security to common man, when the West Bengal Police under the present ruling dispensation did not deem it necessary to rescue a Central Minister from violent students in Jadhavpur University only last month. The members of cultural community do not find it worthwhile to highlight or protest against sectarian violence and deteriorating law and order occurring with the tacit support of the ruling party in the state.
  2. These self-styled guardians and conscience keepers of democracy remain silent when violent naxals exploit or kill tribals and ambush security personnel on duty killing them and rendering many families destitute without a breadearner. However, they make common cause and become hyperactive to defend urban naxals branding them as peace-loving citizens. Needless to mention, these urban naxal serve as ideologues, masterminds and resource persons for the ultras to carry out operations in field.
  3. Many of them are known for their open support to the separatists’ movement and sympathy for the dreaded terrorists like Burhan Vani in Kashmir but none of them have ever condemned abduction, killing or lynching of police and military personnel by the terrorists. Instead, on many occasions they are found defending sponsored stone-pelters and strongly criticizing Indian army on ground.
  4. They immediately pick up any incident of violence where the victim belongs to minorities Muslims or Christians giving a communal colour to the incident but they do not show same empathy or zeal if the victim(s) belongs to the majority community or other minorities. Cases in point are mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir Valley after constant persecution, killings and threats to their life and property by radicalized Muslims and terrorists 1990 onwards as also anti-Sikh riots in 1984 leading to the death of thousands in Delhi alone. However, these celebrities consciously refrain from condemning or even mentioning these excesses and human sufferings.
  5. While they are fighting for the cause of the illegal Rohingyas with the ruling dispensation and in the Supreme Court, none of them have ever bothered to consider how and with what motive thousands of them have settled in Jammu region in a state which was not allowing such right even to Indian nationals till recently. These illegal immigrants are not only a drain on meager state resources but also a security risk due to their vulnerability of falling in the hands of Islamic terrorists. On the other hand, these intellectuals are not known to have ever cared or spoken for the thousands of displaced Kashmiri Pandit and Sikh families still living as refugees in temporary establishments in Delhi and other places.
  6. They have objection to Hindus chanting “Jai Shree Ram” and have even equated it with a “war cry” against minorities (Muslims). Actually, this episode has a genesis in West Bengal where several BJP workers were beaten and imprisoned for chanting this slogan before the Chief Minister’s entourage towards the end of May’ 19. BJP workers resorted to this chant for the next few days in Bengal and some other places only to record their protest against the unlawful action of the state government. This pious chant is used day-to-day by many Hindu devotees and is not against any other community or religion. Most of such complaints were investigated and found false and concocted. Quite obviously, the eminent celebrities did not deem it necessary to have a “fact check” before escalating it to a war cry while they continue to maintain a studied silence on the social evils like triple talaq and halala in the same minority community. The Logical Indian | Opindia


As for lynching is concerned, it is an abhorable and heinous crime against humanity and should be detested and opposed by all. Here the issue is whether while dealing with this crime, should a person or group be selective like 49-celebrities or cultural community of 185 personalities? If an injury is inflicted on a living being, it causes similar misery and pain irrespective of the religion, caste or gender of the individual. Therefore, it is necessary to have similar concern and treatment for all such victims irrespective of their religion or other differences, instead of being selective like celebrities and personalities in the instant case. The secularism implies equal treatment to all religions in India without endorsing or giving any preferential treatment to any one of them. Unfortunately for some political parties, mediapersons and self-proclaimed intellectuals and liberals, the secularism is restricted to a narrow interpretation of concern for certain minorities, particularly the Muslims, in this country. Needless to mention these people belong to the same ecosystem referred to in the opening paragraphs that capitalizes on pampering and appeasement of minorities for their socio-political survival. The intolerance card serves a convenient and handy tool for the selective dissenters to spread insecurity and fear psychosis among the minorities, and in turn to exploit them as a committed vote bank for the political patrons and shining own image nationally and internationally as champions of the cause of minorities and dalits.

The other charge of the 49-celebrities was that the dissent is not being allowed which, according to the cultural community, is akin to the silencing of people’s voices. Author recalls that the poet and lyricist Mazrooh Sultanpuri was prosecuted for sedition and jailed in 1949 for two years just for criticizing the policies of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in one of his poems. Further, a host of books, magazine and films were also banned during Nehru regime for the alleged non adherence to the state objectives and policies. Who can forget the hardship and miseries of Emergency imposed during the regime of Indira Gandhi in 1975 when fundamental rights of all citizens were suspended and thousands of opposition leaders, mediapersons and (genuine) intellectuals were imprisoned without trial? On the contrary, the author finds these days so many political opponents, mediapersons and (so-called) intellectuals are calling Prime Minister Modi by name and gleefully mocking him on social and electronic media and dumping ignominies on him at sweet will. Opponents and critics have addressed him as mass murderer, poisonous person, chor (thief), liar and fraud, Maut ka Saudager, biggest Gunda, Butcher of Gujarat, Jallad, and so on and trend has not subsided yet. What more freedom of speech and expression is required by these politicians, mediapersons and intellectuals/liberals?


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